Joe Calzaghe: The lifelong Juventus fan dreams of glory in Cardiff

Joe Calzaghe and his sons visit Juventus as guests of the club
Joe Calzaghe retired from boxing in 2008

You would think it would be hard to top boxing in front of 50,000 people in your home country, but Wales' legendary boxer Joe Calzaghe might manage it.

Because this week he will live his childhood dream, watching boyhood heroes Juventus playing in the Champions League final, which just so happens to be in Cardiff, in the same stadium Calzaghe headlined against Mikkel Kessler in 2007.

"It is a dream come true for me," the lifelong Juventus fan told BBC Wales.

"For Juventus to be at the final in Cardiff, I can't stress how amazing it is for me. It's a once in a lifetime thing."

Joe Calzaghe and his sons visit Juventus as guests of the club
Joe Calzaghe and his sons visit Juventus as guests of the club

Vecchia Signora

For Calzaghe, who started boxing as a 10-year-old, there was just one dream that eclipsed that of becoming a boxing world champion... emulating his idol Paolo Rossi.

Inspired by his soccer-obsessed father Enzo, himself a schoolboy player for Torres FC, Calzaghe was never one for following his local team Cardiff City, or the trendy teams his mates supported, like Liverpool. For Joe, it was always Vecchia Signora, The Old Lady.

"I've supported Juve since I was nine or 10, I remember crying when they lost 1-0 to Hamburg in the European Cup," he said.

"I remember players like Rossi, Roberto Bettega, and Platini playing under Dino Zoff, so I have always been a Juve fan, including when we got relegated to Serie B.

"To be at the Champions League final in Cardiff, it is just a dream come true.

"For it to be at the national stadium where I boxed 10 years ago against Mikkel Kessler, you can't make it up.

"So to be in a final at the stadium that means so much to me, in my hometown, is incredible. But we've got to win it! We don't have the best record in finals."

Joe Calzaghe at Juventus
Joe Calzaghe was a two-weight world champion who never lost a professional boxing contest

A family affair, a great team

Such is Calzaghe's passion for Juventus, he has taken his sons, Conor and Joe Jr, for a tour of the Juventus Stadium.

Both boys share dads enthusiasm for Juve and Joe says the whole family have been impressed with the improvement to the side this season.

"I was gutted two years ago, when we lost 3-1 to Barcelona in the Champions League, I remember watching that with the family in Sardinia," he explained.

"Last year we lost after two late goals against Bayern, but this year I am hopeful, especially as it is (goalkeeper, Gianluigi) Buffon's last major club level tournament.

"We've got a great chance. (Paulo) Dybala, (Gonzalo) Higuain, we've got a terrific team and what a beautiful thing for it to be in the city of Cardiff.

"I was never a fan of manager Massimo Allegri, but he's proved to be on par or even better than (now Chelsea manager) Antonio Conte.

"The balance of the team is superb, they are a proper team and to not concede in two legs against Barca and Porto shows what an incredible defence we've got.

"Dybala is amazing and the midfield has improved, we've just got stronger and stronger."

Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo
Gareth Bale has won two Champions League's already since joining the club for a then world record fee in 2013. Cristiano Ronaldo (right) recently beat Jimmy Greaves' record for goals scored for one club

Bale-sized problem

Calzaghe is aware of the attacking threat carried by Real Madrid and is worried that a Welshman could be the person to dash his dreams.

"I have only happy memories in the Millennium Stadium and hopefully that is still the case after 3 June," he said.

"So it depends, Madrid have got (Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Gareth) Bale, but not the best defence, so there is a chance.

"It could be a Welshman who breaks my heart, but hopefully not.

"I love Gareth Bale but just this once, please, don't do it! You've got plenty more tournaments to win. You had the Champions League last year, so don't be greedy.

"But I believe Juve will do it. Hopefully it's destiny for me, 10 years on from the Kessler fight."

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